The current research investigates a next-generation method of combustion called detonations for propulsive applications which has support from the Combustion Services Branch at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) of the Rocket Propulsion Division. The overall initiative seeks to explore the viability of detonation-based systems to augment or replace current rocket propulsion methods in the coming five years. The present work progresses this vision by providing proof of a liquid RP-2 based Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine (RDRE) as well as the fundamentals associated with the physics involved to further the understanding of the phenomenon and its potential uses. Phase one of the research starts with development of a theoretical model based on the Zel'dovich-Neumann-Doring (ZND) detonation model and the well established D2 droplet burning model to establish a droplet sizing parameter for varying detonation wavespeeds. Phase two then documents the interaction of a millimeter droplet colliding with varying supersonic waves where the goal is to document the breakup and transient evolution of the droplet when imparted with the supersonic flow velocity. Phase three consists of characterization of an unlike-doublet impinging injector using Liquid-RP2 and Air to record the incipient spray behavior relative to varying operating conditions of interest. Phase four comprises of the aforementioned spray interacting with a fully developed detonation wave where Schlieren, CH*, Formaldehyde PLIF and Mie scatter were used to archive the reactions that ensues. Finally, phase five consists of testing a RDRE fueled with liquid RP-2 and O2 as the reactants where thrust measurements and back-end imaging analysis of the wavespeeds provide insight into the operation and sustenance of the combustion phenomenon occurring inside the engine.


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Graduation Date





Ahmed, Kareem


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Aerospace Engineering


CFE0009220; DP0026823





Release Date

August 2023

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)